Preliminary Report, Ericson 381 Hawaii Cruise 2021

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
The noon position reports are here: click on the marker for log entry. https://www.olmsteadwilliams.com/christians-journey/

Overall this 6,000 nm sail was characterized by aggressive trade winds in the frequent 30-knot range, and by a fair-weather gale on the return.

Cape Horn self-steering vane. Performed equivalent to my former Sailomat, perhaps not quite as good downwind. The Cape Horn is a permanent addition to the boat, and it looks elegant on the stern. It can be used for casual day sailing, which wasn't practical for the Sailomat, which required rigging lines in the cockpit. But the belowdecks components of the CH, including no fewer than 10 blocks, were a constant concern. Steering failed when a key Wichard eyebolt sheared. Later a second eyebolt broke off. Twice the pins of the shackles of the #30 Ronstan blocks came apart, causing steering to fail. On the return voyage, after departing Oahu into 30 knot headwinds, the pendulum blade fell off its mount, result of shock cord fastening worn out by the outbound voyage. Remounting the blade is extremely awkward even at a dock, much less typical offshore conditions. The Cape Horn requires switching to a smaller vane when wind velocity exceeds about 20 knots. This requires hanging out over the transom at midnight in a squall. Component failure was a surprise to me, since I installed the rig myself using recommended gear. The "working" of steel fittings during weeks of constant heavy strain is easy to underestimate. The Cape Horn is very dependent on installation, which varies greatly depending on the steering gear of the yacht. I have concluded that the Ericson design is not optimal for the Cape Horn belowdecks setup. Extensive video will further document these remarks.

Forespar Carbon Fiber Line Control Whisker Pole. Busted in half again, two feet from the base end, in 15 knots with no fouls evident and no winch being used. Complete mystery why. I sawed it up and made a 14-foot nonadjustable pole, which worked fine. I conclude that CF is simply not robust enough for my use offshore. Singlehanders use rehearsed step-by-step procedures for sail set and douse, since there is no help and the performance is often on a pitching foredeck constrained by a tether. A robust aluminum pole stored vertically on the mast, with all its blocks and slides, is in the end a better solution for short-handed crews than my dinghy-style freehand technique. But in fact, my revised CF pole, which now looks like it was designed to be a single length, will suffice nicely in future. The Forespar Line Control conception, in which the extension of the tubes is maintained by an internal line fixed to an external cleat on the main tube, is essentially flawed. Vast compression forces are placed on that line, which cannot be easily adjusted when in place and is held by a single plastic cleat out of reach from the deck. The complication is not worth the gain in convenience. Push-button length control is less prone to failure.

Roller Furling Control Line Failure. Once again, without warning and in the middle of the night, the furler line parted near the drum. The line was brand new Regatta single braid. This happened in 2017, and I could never find the cause, which was frustrating. I watched this drum like a hawk all the way to Hawaii. Then on the return, awoke to find it severed exactly as before. The air was light, so I spent hours furling and unfurling the 120 overlap genoa. I discovered that under certain circumstances, less than 1 percent of the time, the line build-up in the drum caused the control line to chafe against the sharp body of the drum. It was random and unlikely, but it happened. The furler control line, wrapped in the drum, flexes slightly as the boat bashes waves and the forestay sags and straightens. This action, should the line buildup be nonstandard, saws away at the control line. The issue was the lead block, installed by the factory, that produced an angle that could permit such a development. The solution was to change the lead angle of the control line by the addition of an interim block tied to the nearby dock line cleat.

(Continued in Post #2)
 
Last edited:

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Anchor Locker Drain failure. I departed Oahu into aggressive storm trades of 30 G 35, close hauled in third reef and scrap of jib. I immediately thought, this ain't going to work. I couldn't make North, a tight reach had us hurtling off six-foot waves and crashing down into the trough, and our speed --each wave stops the boat like a speed bump--was four knots. But usually the trades decline as progress north of Hawaii is achieved, so I kept going. The Ericson 381, with its fine entry and excellent spray characteristics (I felt no need for a dodger), can handle 25 G 30, if the crew can. But G35 is different. It is hostile and very hard on the boat. We don't pound, but we do slam--the result of launching into thin air off a wave and falling, all 16,000 pound of boat, into the trough below. The 20kg Bruce on the bow buried, and quickly my custom chocks, secured by their lines, chafed through and the chocks carried away. The stem parted the waves like a sledge hammer, splitting them and throwing the spray 30 feet to either side. After a few hours the bilge pump ran continuously and water approached the floorboards. I discovered the leak to be the detachment of the anchor locker drain hose from the stem fitting in the inaccessible forepeak, apparently by explosive wave action. I jibed and ran back to Ko Olina 8 hours, Whale-pumping until we got the protected waters, and found it still blowing 30 knots at the dock. I sealed the stem hole and the locker drain hole and eventually made the return voyage with no locker drain at all. As regards seaworthiness, the drain is actually unnecessary. The locker is never more than half full anyhow, since violent conditions eject most of the water that gets in. However, an open hole in the stem under heavy conditions will definitely sink the boat, since water jets in with some force. Far from port, I could have fixed it by heaving to and temporarily plugging the hole with anything--a dowel, a rag. In normal conditions, of course, when the drain is well above the waterline, a detached hose would not even be noticed. Video here.

Update: after reviewing video I think I mat have had a leaking drain hose from departure. I complained about the bilge pump going off mysteriously on Outbound Days 3 and 4, during a bouncy close reach. But the issue only really looms to windward, when the bow bashes into waves. I had visually examined the stem hose inside and out before departure, but it isn't accessible to the touch. I now have a new personal rule: "you haven't sufficiently confirmed the integrity of a fitting unless you have touched it."

Issue of Spinnaker Halyard as Whisker Pole Topping Lift. Well, I will not go offshore again using a masthead halyard as the lift of the pole. I have two such halyards, and they work fine as lifts. The trouble is, at night, when reefing the foresail, if heavy conditions have created any slack in the tie-offs of the twin halyards, they can get wrapped into the furl, high above deck. I was acutely aware of this possibility, yet it happened twice and I was lucky to get the unfurl to work. In the dark, dealing with a powerfully luffing headsail and the strength required to haul it in, the potential halyard foul is unnecessary and possibly disabling. Pole lifts should use a lift halyard located lower on the mast. Many Kenyon masts , like mine, already have the sheave installed.

Universal Diesel 5432, four cylinder. I carried 70 gallons of fuel and used only 40 this time. Fuel burn was a little more than 1/2 gallon/hour. In a total of maybe 70 hours of motoring less than a quart of oil was burned. I found Bose Noise Cancelling headphones a good companion, reducing the noise to easy levels during one 30-hour stretch of engine-on, and permitting music or audiobooks direct from the iPhone. One issue puzzles me still: offshore, and this was also true of the M25, the diesel after heavy weather is very slow to start. It gets progressively slower every day, until ten tries are required (10 seconds glow, 10 seconds starter). It always eventually starts. At the dock, the very next day, the engine starts instantly, as it usuually does, with 10 seconds of glow. The offshore phenomenon is not a glow plug issue, and in any case the ambient temperature is often 80F. It seems to be that a boat gyrating wildly as it bashes through waves for long periods forces fuel out of the engine, which has to be replaced by longer cranking of the mechanical fuel pump. But then, I tried using my electric fuel pump (used for filter changes), and that made no difference at all.

Communication and Survival. A rented Iridium satphone got instant signal under all conditions, using a pole antenna on four-foot pvc pipe in the cockpit. I carried a new Coastal Commander emergency life raft, which weighs only 20 pounds. I have a Jordan Series drogue which contributes greatly to peace of mind. Under extreme conditions such as a full gale, the JSD gives the crew something to deploy and to go below and wait things out. In the unlikely event of interception by a hurricane, it also provides a chance of survival. I missed having a sea anchor, which is useful when repairs have to be made. The Ericson 381 does not heave to very well, especially since under heave-to conditions the mainsail is probably already furled on the boom.

Sail under jib alone in heavy conditions? I concluded yes. My third reef was often too much, and the boat behaved better under jib alone. This was news to me, but I'm now convinced. And a stable boom hard-lashed, with gaskets tight, is a good handhold under bad conditions.

Ericson 381 Offshore. The boat is sound in all respects. In extreme conditions, when pounding seas seem to be trying to break apart anything put together, that's a great comfort. That goes for the spade rudder, punished continually, the rig and chainplates, and the integrity of the hull/deck joint and the keel bolts. To windward, it sails well, and is remarkably (relatively) dry and able. Off the wind in heavy air and seaway the Ericson hull can be forgiven for not being able to get out of its own way, requiring much reduced sail and effortful steering. Heavier boats designed expressly for cruising have more initial stability, and although comparisons are difficult I believe many of them would be a good deal more comfortable--and tractable.
 
Last edited:

Joliba

1988 E38-200 Contributing Member
Challenging voyage—
This definitely illustrates how attention to a few small details can make the difference between a trouble free passage and hours of frustration.
Thanks for the analysis, Christian.
Mike Jacker
 

goldenstate

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I enjoy this feedback a lot. Your youtube work makes the trips seem effortless, but here on the EY site we get more of the raw truth :)

As for your difficult-start issues with the engine: I have seen some people advocate for carrying a spare alternator or even a spare starter motor on a long passage. I can't recall reading if you support those ideas, or would plan to simply sail your way out in the event the starter died or your alternator gave up (for recharging electronic nav and media gadgets etc.).
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I trust the starter and alternator not to fail. I do carry a spare external regulator and alternator belts. But I could live without an engine.

I have three Group 31 105 batteries (one is the reserve), and if the engine fails to start I would cut all electric use. I generally use about 15 amps a day, most of that the 10 amps my AIS consumes being on at all times. The rest is stereo and accessory charging and lights. I don;t run the refrigerator except during daily engine recharge time, which cools a beer, or during periods of motoring through doldrums. I only turn the chartplotter on when looking at it. I don't turn on running lights offshore unless a ship appears with a 5-mile CPA. (There are no ships at all for weeks at a time.)

So, in a failed engine or alternator scenario, I could make it to Hawaii without recharging at all. The portable GPSs, including the iPhone, have their own batteries, which I keep fully charged. It would be an inconvenience not to have an engine, but navigation would not be affected. I would always know my position, from which paper navigation is easy.

But I wouldn't sleep well without the AIS and its ship alarm.

Regarding the videos, it is true that they cast a rosy light on what is a psychological and sometimes physical test. By the time I get them put together, memory has already smoothed the edges of experience. Also, my prior two voyages were in the end fairly benign. This summer's was more of a battle, with strong contrary winds. A good deal of it was characterized by a sort of grim endurance and discomfort. Video is a construct of memory and our best memories are lies to ourselves.
 

bgary

Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
Isn't amazing how things ALWAYS wait to break until it is dark and nasty....
 

Rick R.

Contributing Partner
Thank you Christian for sharing the details of an Ericson under difficult conditions that make coastal sailing seem tame by comparison.
 
Top